Saturday, July 19, 2014

Recording the Ordinary

We just got home tonight after traveling for two weeks as a family. (It feels so great to be in our own little place again!)

Grace had a basketball camp at BYU the first week, and Alia and I attended a conference called "Especially for Youth" the second week (I was a teacher, and she was a participant), 


and in the midst of all that, we spent lots of time with family and friends, attended Eric's high school reunion, and simply enjoyed the beauty of the mountains, lakes, and rivers in Utah.




I don't typically write up vacation details on this blog (because I worry about leaving anyone or anything out), and I always feel like I need to write about "important" things so I don't waste the time of anyone who happens to stop by and read this, but tonight I had the feeling that I need to start recording more of the ordinary (because someday the details of this "ordinary" life might mean more to me than I know).

So here's what happened today:

- We had a ping pong tournament in my sister's basement:


- Then the cousins ran down the street and chased our car while we all waved goodbye.

- We drove for 10 hours to get home--singing our favorite songs for at least three of those hours, reading books and watching movies for a few more hours, stopping for lunch at Cafe Rio, and (of course) Eric let me take a great nap. He's so good to me.

- We also had a wonderful talk on the drive and read through the "Entertainment and Media" section of a little pamphlet from church called "For the Strength of Youth." (You can google it if you want to see what it says.) We talked about how media can be fantastic for helping us learn, communicate, and become better people. And we discussed how easy it can be to get distracted by screens and waste precious time. Today was also the first day I really talked with Spencer about what pornography is. He's only six, but I wanted to start the dialogue now so that he will know which things are appropriate and which things are not.

- I read on Facebook today about a friend of a friend's whose husband of 16 years died in a car accident, and how she and her six children have been so blessed and cared for during this traumatic time. (I can't even imagine...)

I held Eric's hand tight during the whole rest of the drive and thought deeply about how I want to live every day with no regrets--making sure my family members feel my love and doing everything I can to listen to God and be an instrument in His hands. I want to be totally ready to go whenever it is my time.

Yes, it's easy to get caught up in the insignificant details of life, and yes, I am anxious to get our garage organized and our bedroom painted.

But when I really think about what's most important, it's the people I love and the work God wants me to do. (Doesn't that feel so simple?)

So that's my record for now. Hope all of you who are reading this are feeling strong and supported today. I wish we could all just sit around and really talk at the end of each night, but for now, I invite you to share any thoughts you've been having lately, and I will just consider this the next best thing! 

With love,
April



Thursday, June 26, 2014

What I Need to Say About Faith, Power, and Womanhood

I typically stay out of "media firestorms."

It's simply not where I feel my voice is most effective.

I write often about my faith, and I do my best to strengthen families and help people of all religions to find common ground, but I rarely feel the desire or the responsibility to add my words to a flurry of voices--many of which seem to be arguing simply for the sake of arguing.

But this week, the church I love has been prominently featured in mostly all (if not all) of the top media sources--discussing women and the priesthood--and the headlines have made my heart hurt.

I understand that this is the way media works. They grab onto issues that strike at the core of controversial topics, and they write their stories in a way that will generate the most clicks and the most heated debates.

I also understand that there is a lot of deep emotion involved here--and there are women with serious questions and concerns that need to be discussed and resolved.  I am all for calm, meaningful discussions.

It's just that jumping into the middle of a heated debate, where the focus seems to be more on "getting attention" than "getting to the heart of the issue" has never appealed to me.

But the other day, I read this line in one of the articles: "Most Mormon women stay silent on the issue of equality."

And the more I thought and prayed about this, the more I felt that I needed to say something--not in an attempt to throw myself into the craziness out there, but to leave a record for my daughters and granddaughters who may someday wonder where I stood on this subject. I simply can't risk my silence mistakenly communicating the idea that either (1) I don't care or (2) I wasn't allowed to speak. (Neither of which statements are true.)

Today, I am going to share just a little bit of my story and create a simple record of things I know to be true.

In one of the interviews I read, a woman at the heart of this movement said that she had been raised by a mother who said, "one day women will hold the priesthood."

This struck me to be so different than the way my mother (a lifetime member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) raised me.

I don't know if she and I ever talked specifically about women and the priesthood, but in essence, her words and actions said this:

"Through our faith in Jesus Christ, both women and men currently have the privilege to receive all of the blessings the Father has for us. There is no need to wait for anything. The power is yours. Now. And I'm going to show you how to access it."

And then she did.

She taught me to pray. She taught me to feast on the scriptures. She taught me to listen to promptings from the Spirit, she taught me to serve others and happily do whatever God asked me to do. She showed me how to work side-by-side with my husband and train my children and turn to the right Source for anything I could ever possibly need.

And as she taught me these things, I was an eyewitness to the fruits of that kind of faith.

Angels minister to my mother. Miracles happen. Her influence and light extends across the globe to millions of people, and there is a beauty and peace and unbelievable power that even the most eloquent words will never come close to describing.

I am a grateful, happy member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I feel 100% equal to my husband (who loves and honors the priesthood he bears) and to every other priesthood holder I have ever known, and I know that my ability to serve within our church is magnified by the priesthood--not diminished. Not once have I felt slighted or unappreciated because I am a woman. Not once.

I feel empowered, cherished, protected, and blessed--and confident beyond measure that the Lord is aware of each of us and wants His sons and daughters to receive every blessing He has for us.

Our church is a living, growing organization. And yes, if the Lord needs to make changes, they will be directed by those given the stewardship to do so. I trust that.

I feel for those who have obviously not had the same experiences I have had. I in no way mean to diminish their pain or their situations by sharing my opposite view, but in all the areas I have lived--coast to coast--the experiences I have shared above have been the rule--not the exception.

So to my daughters and granddaughters, please know that I have absolute confidence in the way our church is organized. Please remember that you are a cherished child of God, and that your potential to influence and strengthen the world is limitless. And please do everything in your power to carry on the legacy of faith that is your privilege to carry.


I am leaving the comments open on this post, and I am happy to answer any questions those who are reading this might have. I do ask that all comments and questions be written respectfully, in a way that generates helpful discussion.

With love,
April

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Lifted

My mom is declining. And it's happening faster than I thought it would.

She's sleeping about 20 hours a day now. Her legs won't let her stand. She's forgotten how to write her name. She needs to be reminded to swallow.

But there's something powerful happening that I felt I needed to record tonight.

I'm being lifted.

This morning when I woke up and thought about the various challenges that are hurting my heart (my mom's situation at the forefront), I whispered, "I can't do this. It's too much. I'm not strong enough."

But a couple of hours later, during the closing hymn at church, we sang this:

Fear not, I am with thee. Oh be not dismayed.
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand.
Upheld by my righteous omnipotent hand.

At that moment, the message was for me, and I heard this:

I'll help you, April. You don't need to be afraid. I am with you. Trust me. I have never let you down.

And those words stayed with me all afternoon...as I thought about how I will say goodbye, as I considered how to start the conversation with my dad about "final arrangements," and as I spoke with my mom briefly on the phone (I could feel what she was trying to say, but all I could hear were partial sentences and slurred words).

Then tonight I was given two tender mercies.

The first was from Grace, who could see my tears as we got Spencer's room straightened up before getting him into bed.

"It'll be okay, Mom," she said. "I mean, would you rather have grandma remember nothing and be with you physically--or remember everything and be with you spiritually?"

Her wisdom touched my heart, and I turned to her and opened my arms. We just stood together in the center of the room, hugging each other tight.

Then Alia went into the office and started printing something off the computer, and after I reminded her it was time to get to bed, she said, "One minute...you're going to like this."

The next thing I knew, she was downstairs playing a simplified version of "Blue Moon," the song my mom used to always play on the piano.

I stood at the top of the stairs--mesmerized--and watched her play--thinking about how blessed I am to have children who know exactly how to take care of me. If there was one song in the world that had the power to calm my heart tonight, that was it.

When I walked to the bottom of the stairs, she stopped and pointed to another piece of sheet music. "I printed the harder version for you."

Now, let me stop here for a moment to explain that I have heard my mom play Blue Moon for 36 years, and I have never once been able to play it myself. She didn't have the sheet music, and I never took the time when she was healthy to ask her to teach it to me. When I have tried to pick it out on the piano (watching videos of her and attempting to copy her hands), I've ended up totally frustrated.

But tonight when I sat down to play the music Alia had found, it was the exact same key and the exact same music my mom has been playing all these years.

I am not much of a pianist, but here's a little video in case you'd like to hear it:



I don't know how much longer my mom has, and I don't have a clear understanding of everything this process is supposed to teach me, but I am absolutely certain that the Lord is aware of our needs. And just as He is lifting me and my family during this time, I have zero doubts that He will do the same for you.

Much love,
April



Saturday, May 24, 2014

Top 5 Reasons We Love Grandma Peggy

Today is the birthday of my sweet mother-in-law (whom we affectionately call Grandma Peggy).

Every year as her birthday approaches, I always wonder how I can adequately express how much I admire her.

So today I thought I would gather my children and share a little bit about why we love having Grandma Peggy in our lives.

(1) When you go to Grandma Peggy's house, she rolls out the red carpet.

There are usually freshly-baked cookies, beds all made up with colorful quilts--and chocolates on the pillows, tasty snacks, toys and new pajamas for the kids, and basically anything you could possibly want or need--all prepared with love. But the most important part of that whole set-up is Grandma Peggy--there with her arms extended, ready to give each of us a hug. She has this amazing ability to make everybody feel like they're at home.

(2) With Grandma Peggy, you never get the feeling that she is too busy for you.

The fact of the matter is that Peggy is really busy--working long hours at the school for the deaf, taking care of her friends and family, serving at church and in the community, plus managing all of the "normal" stuff that needs to happen when you're running a household.

But whenever you call or visit, she sits back and somehow figures out how to make things work so you don't feel rushed. Sometimes I just talk and talk and talk--about things going on that I hadn't even intended on mentioning. But having such a sweet listening ear just brings it out of me.

(3) She has a beautiful talent for encouraging others.

I could go on forever listing the ways she cares for young children at her work and how she supports all of us in our various activities, but one of my favorite stories is about what she did for a missionary who was serving in the Philippines alongside one of her children. He wasn't receiving any letters or packages or anything from his family, and Peggy simply couldn't live with that. So she started writing to him--regularly. And she sent him special things in the mail. Someone she had never even met--and most likely would never meet. Yet she wanted to take care of him while he was serving the Lord. I love that.

(4) Grandma Peggy is funny.

With six children, who have lively personalities of their own, there's always something unique going on at the Perry house. Peggy embraces the humor. She plays games, helps with dress-up parties, and even poses for ridiculous photo ops for her daughters to post on Instagram (I won't re-post them here). Her laugh is comforting, and she's such an example to me.

(5) Grandma is the birthday/holiday QUEEN

Ever since I joined the Perry family 15 years ago, Peggy has shipped packages our way for every birthday and major holiday. She's honestly an expert when it comes to being thoughtful.

Alia gave a talk in church for Mother's Day, and this is what she said about Grandma Peggy:

My grandma loves to give gifts, and she never ever forgets a holiday! On Christmas, Valentine's Day, Halloween, birthdays, and many other holidays, we can expect a knock at the door from our mail carrier or a package in our mailbox.

These aren't just normal packages--they are covered in stickers, and sometimes personalized for the person or the holiday! She fills the packages with toys, books, movies, and candy. I've even been able to help her fill a few myself.

I can really see how much love and effort she puts into each one!

Because my grandma loves and never forgets her children and grandchildren, I was reminded of a scripture from Isaiah 49:16. The Lord has promised us that He will not forget us because He has "graven us upon the palms of His hands." And our promise to Him is that we will not forget Him, for we have engraven Him in our hearts.

Happy birthday, Grandma Peggy (Mom)! You have one of the sweetest hearts I have ever known, and we feel so privileged to call you ours. 


 



Sunday, May 18, 2014

My Big Leap

I posted this on my personal Facebook page Thursday night when I came home from my mom's house. And then I figured I should post it here, too, since so many of you have been asking about my mother's Alzheimer's and sincerely expressing love for our family. Thank you.

_____________________________________________________________



I feel like I made a big leap tonight. Made it to a place I didn't think I could go. Because I am way too tired to write up a whole blog post about it, I'm just going to share the story here (for those who are following this adventure with my mom and her Alzheimer's).

Because it was SO hot today (felt like 100 in Long Beach), we decided we couldn't possibly stay in my parents' house, so we walked over the bridge to the local bay. Mom, Dad and I sat at the water's edge while Alia, Grace, Ethan, and Spencer played in the water and built sand castles. I held my mom's hand the whole time, and my dad and I talked--one of those conversations where we kept remembering funny stories and laughing together (mostly about how FUNNY my mom was in her earlier years). When we returned home, we ate lasagna for dinner and helped Mom get all ready for bed. She was out like a light by 8.

It was a sweet day. Calm and precious. But the thing is, my mom really wasn't there for it. It might just have been the heat, or maybe today was just a "low" for her, but she couldn't finish even one sentence. She needed me to feed her at the dinner table. It took two (sometimes three) of us to lift her out of her wheelchair, and she needed me to brush her teeth for her. I didn't even need to ask her if she knew my name because I already knew the answer. She just calls me "Sweetheart," and I think that is great.

But here's where my "big leap" comes in. I realized as I was tucking her in bed that I've gone from caring mostly about my own needs (and my longing to have her know me and love me and stay with me here in this life) to thinking about HER needs--and finally feeling the compassion she deserves to have felt for her. For the first time, tonight I was able to look at her and think, "Wow, this whole process must be so incredibly exhausting for you."

I don't want to see her go. I hope she lives for many more years. But tonight I finally got to the point where if the Lord sees fit to take her back to Him, I will be okay with that.

I don't know if any of you have ever gone through something like this, and really, I hope you never do, but you all have been such a support to me. I thought it wouldn't hurt to share. Love to you all.


 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Lia and Alia (And a Favorite Day of My Life)

Yesterday we had a little piece of heaven in our home. I don't know if words can describe it, so I'm just going to post all of the pictures and show you.

But first, I feel like I need to give a brief update on what's been going on here:
  • Our Book Launch: Thank you SO much for your amazing support last month as we launched Motherhood Realized. We got to #27 in Amazon (out of more than a million books...I can hardly believe it), and we were able to hit #1 in Motherhood AND Parenting. Took my breath away. Eric and my children were the best cheerleaders. I pretty much stayed in my pajamas that whole week, but it was a dream come true!  (It took a few weeks for us to see if we were going to hit the NYT Bestsellers List, and we unfortunately never got on there, but I am totally okay with that. The NYT list would be such an honor, but it turns out that our status on Amazon helped us achieve the title of "Bestseller"--so that is beyond exciting.  And, really, what I care about most is that this book is strengthening mothers and making a difference in their lives (which it is...we're getting emails about it every day). So, yes, the book is launched. We are happy! And the world is starting to find out about Power of Moms.  
  • My Mom: Those of you who read this blog are honestly the most compassionate people in the world. Thank you for caring about my mother and for asking about how she is doing with her Alzheimer's. I have been able to have so many sweet experiences with her over the past month, and I wish I could sit down and record all of them. Life is moving quickly, and my writing time is so limited. Eric is helping me to get things organized so that this most important writing (that really fills me) can happen more often. But until then, I'm just squeezing it in where I can. If you could see the state of my house right now, you might wonder why I am even typing this.  :)
Here are a few pictures from our visit to see my mom right before Easter. My sister Page and three of her children were there, too!




All right, my little guy is getting a bit restless, so I'm going to get right on with this story about our "little piece of heaven" Saturday.

My 14-year-old, Alia, has a dear friend at school named Lia, who was adopted from China a year ago to an amazing family in our community.

Alia's birthday was in January, and I asked her if she wanted a party.  She responded that she wanted to wait a few months and, instead, put on a birthday party for Lia.  Although Lia had a nice family party for her first birthday here in the States, she had never had a party with friends, and Alia felt it was her privilege to do that for her.

So Saturday was the day...and Alia planned EVERYTHING.

She had sent out individualized, hand-written invitations two months in advance and coordinated with all of Lia's best friends to make sure they would be at our house at 11am sharp.



When Lia's mom texted us, saying they were about to arrive, a hush came over the group, and we waited with great anticipation:


See my daughter's face? (Alia is in the yellow sweater.) She was so excited:


I snapped this picture through our bathroom window. So sneaky, right?


Spencer and Ethan were in charge of opening the door for the "SURPRISE!"


And this is one of my favorite pictures that I have ever taken in my life. The exposure was set a little too bright on my camera, but do you know what? This is exactly how it felt when we opened the door. Like light was entering our house. Grace (who videotaped the whole thing from behind) said, "An angel was walking inside."


I caught this hug as Alia welcomed Lia to her party:


Look at these two girls. I'm pretty sure they knew each other before this life.


They started with a bunch of games at our dining room table:



Lia would have played Uno the whole time. She loves that game:


And then we served lunch. Alia cooked the whole thing herself (she'd planned the menu, made sure no one had any allergies, and even had the bowls and forks out). I just did the "dishing up."




Such cute butterfly jell-o pieces:


And since Lia loves the movie "Frozen," Alia had hung snowflakes from the ceiling:


And, of course, she'd prepared our typical balloons and streamers:


And she'd made Lia a cake--with a LEGO girl on top made by Ethan--to kind of look like Lia:


Here are all the girls before we sang:


And cute Lia was smiling so much that she couldn't blow out the candles, so Alia helped her:


We all had cake and ice cream (Eric was there to help dish it up):




Then they played, "Put the Nose on Olaf." (Lia didn't want to play, but she had a great time watching. She'd never even heard of "Pin the Tail on the Donkey" before and thought that was the funniest thing.)
 

Grace sat with her arm around Lia throughout the whole game. They will be at school together next year, when Alia goes to high school and Grace gets to the middle school. Lia is right in between their grades.


Here's the final placement of the carrot noses:


 Then it was time to open presents:


Each girl got her gift from the table and sat down on the couch next to Lia.


Lia is just learning to read, so as she opened each card, she said, "Will you read this to me?"  I was choked up during that whole process--as I watched these young teenage girls reading sweet messages of love to Lia. I'm just including all of the pictures here because I couldn't choose between them:













Alia had decorated Lia's desk at school earlier this week and given her a present then,


but she also had these painted letters for Lia to hang in her bedroom:


There have been a few times in my life as a mother when my children have done something so beautiful that I couldn't even find the words to express the feelings of my heart. This was one of those times.

In our book, Deliberate Motherhood, I learned from one of our authors that the expression "Olé" came from an old tradition when people would see the Divine in a performance or in a work of art, and they would shout, Allah! Allah! Allah! (Which referred to God.) Over time, the shout was changed into Olé! Olé! Olé!

As I watched my daughter and her friends take care of Lia and create this special experience for her, I was overwhelmed by the Light of the Divine. It simply flooded our house.

I, personally, am so hesitant to invite people over.  I just typically don't feel very "put together." I'd been at a community service project all morning, and I hadn't had a chance to shower or do my hair. Our guest bathroom had the lid off the toilet tank because the black cylinder-thing in there needs to be pushed down each time the toilet is flushed, and we just haven't had a chance to get it fixed yet. Our plants on our front porch have died again, and we pretty much have weeds growing all over our front lawn.

But no one who came to Lia's party cared one bit about those things. 

It was pure love. Every bit of it.

Alia had even spent her own money on the party, and she kept the costs of the entire thing to about $20.  It was amazing to see how she had planned every single detail with such beauty and grace.

I wish I could write more. I wish I could capture more of this beautiful life that is swirling around me.

I need to record more in the coming weeks--because there is something so powerful and so special going on right now at this stage of my life, and I'm afraid if I don't write about it, I won't remember it.

But I think this is good for today. I'm just grateful I got to be a part of this and have the chance to feel so much love from our Creator.


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